“Ima, pick me up,” said Noam, he too wanted to kiss the mezuzah as we walked into the corner store to get some last-minute Shabbos treats. The older boys always kiss the mezuzah as we go in and out of doorways, and little Noam wanted to take part, too, being the big boy that he is.
It’s not really a commandment, you know, kissing the mezuzah, though people think it is. It’s a commandment to put a mezuzah on your doors, but the kissing is optional. Nevertheless, lots of people do it, men and boys and women and girls, as a sign of respect and remembering. We have a mezuzah, which we purchased from aJudaica.com website too, a parchment scroll rolled and tucked inside a pretty tubular cover, on the right doorpost of all the rooms in our house. That was a nine pack which was delivered personally by my handsome Yossi, who runs the business ☺
You don’t place them on bathroom doors, but most people affix them to all the other doors – garage, laundry room, basement.
The younger boys have cute covers, which we purchased on aJudaica.com website they are really cool: a truck, of course, a Superman; Yossi and I, on our bedroom door, have a lovely colorful glass case we got from his aunt on our first wedding anniversary. It’s a hodge-podge of cases in the rest of the house, two made of Jerusalem stone, one that is wooden, another few that are metal or enameled in bright colors. The outsides are all different, but their insides are the same: rolled parchment with G-d’s name and special Torah verses on it, written by a sofer stam, a special scribe.
Every few years Yossi removes the parchment from the cases and carefully takes them to a scribe who lovingly checks them for irregularities. Some people might think that once a mezuzah is hung on the door that the mitzvah is done and that is that. But that is not so. Mezuzahs need to be checked, to make sure no damage has occurred, to the delicate scroll or the words written on it. But for lots of people, even those with great intentions, it is easy to forget to check them, busy with work and learning and everything else.
It’s good that there is an announcement in synagogue to remind us, in Elul, a time when it is especially important to check mezuzahs, and ourselves.
Noam gently nudges my arm, squirming to be lifted, and as I do so, he lovingly touches his fingers to the mezuzah and then to his mouth, making a hearty kiss sound ☺ Noam heads over the treat aisle, looking for some yummy Shabbos snacks, when I bump into Ari and Eli, my friend Leesa’s twins. I suddenly remember what she told me, just last week.
It happened before they made Aliyah to Israel. They were living in Northern New Jersey, in a nice community, a place with good schools and lots of activities for the kids. Leesa, her husband Josh and there two kids lived in a small apartment right off the main street. Life was good for their family, Josh had a great job he loved, and Leesa worked in a preschool for 5 year olds at a matnas (community center) close by. The twins were doing well in their class and liked their afterschool soccer and art groups.
“It was just a regular day,” Leesa started. “Josh had just left, driving the 10 miles to his job, and out of nowhere, a large van sideswiped him, taking off the driver’s side mirror and causing a lot of damage to the car.”
Josh was fine, thank G-d, but shaken up and the cost of the repairs played heavily on the young family’s income. Never mind, said Leesa, recounting the story, “It was just the car, no one was hurt, and a week later Josh was back in the car commuting to work.”
Until the following Friday, on their way to spend Shabbos with Josh’s sister and brother in law.
Filled with the kids in their booster seats and their Shabbos clothes and backed goods and wine, the car broke down, right on the highway. “Josh called the towing company while I called his sister, and that wasn’t really a big deal either,” said Leesa. They arrived at Josh’s sister’s just before candle lighting, thanks to a kind stranger and Josh’s brother in law.
“It drove great – for six entire days! Then the ac broke, the two front tires got flats three day apart, and a grocery cart flew right across a parking lot and made a huge dent in the back of the car!”
“I couldn’t believe it! Josh thought maybe he should get a new car, but really that seemed silly. It has always been a good car, and it wasn‘t the car’s fault that a grocery card slammed into it.” So they fixed the flat tires and air conditioning and ignored the dent as best they could. “All was well,” said Leesa, telling the tale with hand movements and vivid facial expressions, “for nearly two weeks. And then Josh crashed into a tree, a raccoon got into our garage and made a mess four nights in a row, and I tripped over a box of books while cleaning up the raccoon mess and sprained my wrist.”
“It went from being kind of funny, a lot of coincidences, and strange feelings to just too freaky. I was miserable, worried about Josh and the boys and everything.”
“Walking home from Shul the next week, Josh told me he had mentioned all this to his learning group, and someone suggested checking our mezuzot. That really wasn’t my thing, I mean, I just didn’t really understand how the writing could change or a letter could go bad on a piece of parchment. But apparently it can, “ Leesa said, laughing.
The sofer came to their house and checked all their mezuzot. “And, do you know what he found? The one on the garage door had gotten damp or something, and the mezuzah was a mess. We couldn’t believe it! We got them a new scroll from Yossi’s aJudaica shop and from that day until 2 years later when we moved to Israel, nothing happened to the car or the garage – and we never had raccoons again, either!”
I stood there, letting it all settle in as Noam showed me the treats he had picked out. “Come,“ I said, after he kissed the mezuzah on the way out of the market, ”let’s go home and talk to Aba about checking our mezuzot.”